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Mother's Day is perfect chance to see preserve

May 13, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

BEDINGTON, W.Va. - At the age of 21/2, Andy Arnold's daughter Sadie was already becoming a serious student of nature at the Yankauer Nature Preserve Sunday.

Every time her tour group stopped along one of the trails, Sadie would bend down and give the wildflowers and other plants a closer examination with a miniature magnifying glass.

"Very small aren't they? OK, let's go look at the other ones," her father said.

Sadie wasn't in any hurry, and Arnold would scoop up his daughter and catch up to the rest of the group every time they fell behind.

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Young and old alike took to the wooded, winding trails during the preserve's second annual Mother's Day Wildflower Walks Sunday afternoon.

Yankauer Nature Preserve has existed since the 1960s, but it's only been within the last several years that there has been a push to more fully develop the area and inform the public about the existence of the property.

Thanks to a core group of about 15 volunteers, improvements have been made, including construction of a gravel parking lot that can hold about 25 cars, interpretive areas, an outdoor classroom and about two miles of trails, said Kristin Alexander, director of the preserve.

The preserve consists of 104 acres made up of oak forests surrounded by glades of red cedar and dense thickets of fast-growing shrubs and trees. From the preserve's entrance along Whitings Neck Road, the preserve extends east down to the Potomac River, where bluffs along the river stand about 75 feet high, said Alexander.

The mix of habitat makes Yankauer Preserve a perfect spot to watch birds, including prairie warblers, woodpeckers and barred owls, Alexander said.

In the spring, Yankauer Nature Preserve begins its bountiful wildflower show.

At the top of the hour from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, visitors were led on wildflower tours of the preserve as part of the Mother's Day celebration.

People on the tours were able to see May apple, jack in the pulpit, Indian strawberries and other wild plants in bloom.

"The limestone soil is really good for plants out there," said Alexander.

Arnold, his wife, Carmela Cesare, and their two children were part of group of about five people on one of the short hikes. Arnold said he and his wife visited the preserve many years ago, but it was only for a short walk.

"It's nice to have a place so close," said the Shepherdstown, W.Va., attorney.

Part of Alexander's job as director is to promote the preserve through programs like Sunday's event.

Alexander said she plans to organize another day's worth of tours through the preserve this summer.

But you don't need a guide to enjoy the preserve's looping trail system. Visitors are welcome to visit the preserve from dusk to dawn every day, Alexander said.

The preserve began when Alfred Yankauer donated the property to The Nature Conservancy of West Virginia. It is now managed by that organization and the Potomac Valley Audubon Society.

It is located near the small communities of Bedington and Scrabble between Martinsburg and Shepherdstown.

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